I was recently quoted in an article rounding up predictions for mobile in 2014 (20 Mobile Industry Expert Predictions for 2014). There were a lot of comments about mobile commerce, mobile marketing budgets increasing and tracking, but no one else seemed to share my prediction:
Building 23snaps has been an amazing learning experience in so many ways, but none more-so than the wake up call that the vast majority of consumers, across any market, are not tech-savvy millennials who will forgive UI inconveniences for the sake of using the latest technology. At 23snaps, many of our users are using a technology other than email for enjoying family photos for the very first time. That can be hard enough for them on the computer, but add a new smartphone into the mix and suddenly there are a lot of our customers who need, if not hand-holding, some excellent sign-posting to help them figure out what to do next.
I would like to think that I’m not the only one who noticed this trend. As I mentioned in my prediction, iOS 7 was a jarring experience for many users. In fact the AARP, a membership community and non-profit for US over-50s, actively discouraged its members from upgrading to iOS 7 as late as 30 October, 2013 (iOS 7 was released in June). They said:
“The font is very light and may be hard to read for some. The icons appear flat and move quickly across the screen, causing some people to report dizziness.”
If Apple thinks this recommendation from AARP is no big deal, they should check the membership roster. AARP has over 40 million members.
But the bias towards user interface design that favors the tech-savvy is pervasive through the entire industry – and at times this is dramatic enough to confuse even the millennials. Look, for example, at the Facebook ‘Other’ inbox, for most people a hidden repository of lost birthday wishes, invitations and requests.
An enormous audience has access now to technology that should make their lives easier in every way. But instead the applications and services available leave many of them confused and frustrated. In the last few years, the audience of non-digital natives using the latest technology has become the majority but products and services aren’t catering to them, missing out on profit and growth opportunities.
2014 needs to be the year that designers and developers begin considering the experience for someone who doesn’t understand that three horizontal lines means ‘Menu’ or that an eight-pointed star means ‘News Feed,’ or even what a ‘News Feed’ is. There is a balance to be struct between spoonfeeding digital natives, but creating a beautiful, usable product, that signposts the most important elements for those who are discovering them for the first time.